Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preview 2009-10 -- Syracuse Orange

Too Busy for the Details?
Syracuse said goodbye to three players at the end of last season who seemed to thrive on the drama. Whether it was a 6 overtime win over Connecticut in the Big East Tournament, a dramatic bucket that turned an embarrassing mid-major loss into a win, a dunk at the end of a blowout game or a late evening off campus confrontation with coeds, a late season AWOL just before a big conference road game. Jonny Flynn, Erick Devendorf and Paul Harris could thrill and infuriate the Orange Nation simultaneously...several times a week. Coach Boeheim has 2 red shirts (Mookie Jones and Scoop Jardine), along with a transfer and 3 true freshmen ready to step into the vacated slots. The 2010 edition of the Orange may be a touch less talented, but they will certainly be far more coachable. Prognosis -- A 2nd quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance
The distribution of minutes and offensive/defensive statistics resemble peaks and valleys for a reason -- the Orange have had problems establishing player continuity since (roughly) 2006. Fans may want to "blame" the talent level -- Green & Flynn left early for the draft, while critics may want to blame the players -- Harris & Devendorf left early for...(Europe)?; Wright left the program; Jardine & Edelen were suspended at points in their careers. Or blame the injuries, as at one time or another Onuaku, Rautins and Jardine have rehabbed injuries to the overall detriment of the team and their own development.


The returning "profile" looks much like the 2008 squad. The big difference is that 2008 team had to replace their forwards and center positions, the 2010 team will have to replace the back court and wing spots (note the differences in %3FGM & offensive rebounding between 2008 and 2010).

According to Pomeroy...
Overall ORtg117.311114.337113.148
Overall DRtg91.72994.36590.928
Big East ORtg109.94102.7999.69
Big East DRtg101.76102.0695.45
Four Factors --
All Off. eFG%54.41652.75550.6144
All Off. TOv%20.619221.621320.8142
All Off. OReb%35.67839.01535.783
All Off. FTA/FGA39.39242.0361.756
All Def. eFG%46.76749.213643.77
All Def. TOv%18.827019.822919.8241
All Def. OReb%35.527431.912236.7297
All Def. FTA/FGA26.21029.54431.162
Four Factors --
BE Off. eFG%54.5250.4749.48
BE Off. TOv%20.21321.21120.410
BE Off. OReb%35.6536.7331.413
BE Off. FTA/FGA34.9644.8238.57
BE Def. eFG%48.4549.1743.52
BE Def. TOv%18.8819.11118.510
BE Def. OReb%37.11330.4336.716
BE Def. FTA/FGA30.0535.5735.111
All Gms Cons19.414018.711015.922
All Gms Luck+.015104-.038240-.076309

If Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn could not persuade the staff to abandon Coach Boeheim's 2-3 zone in favor of man-to-man, this group, as athletic as they are, have no hope at all. Symptomatic of zone defenses, the Orange did not force turnovers, foul much or rebound (defensively) at quite the levels that their talent and athleticism would suggest. The zone is intended to diminish the opponent's offensive effectiveness by taking away easy scoring opportunities inside the arc. To beat the zone an opponent has to attack the zone's specific weak spots (and score) or shoot effectively from the outside, thereby forcing the zone to extend to the point where it falls apart.

For the Record...
Big East1170.611990.5001060.625
Post Season?NCAA/Rnd 3NIT/Rnd 3NIT/Rnd 2

The Orange went back to the NCAAs last season after a 2 year "hiatus" in the NIT. Though they put together the wins (conference and OOC) in 2007 & 2008, the slate, combined with the extended early season homestands, undermined their bid. The Orange upgraded their OOC slate last season, and left the confines of the Carrier Dome to take on opponents at neutral sites. This season will see them do the same.

The Orange's Nucleus
Coach Jim Boeheim may find the quiet next fall a little unsettling. While a significant percentage of the minutes, points and rebounds are gone, they go with what had to be one of the highest maintainance group of players ever to pass through his program. Rick Jackson aside, the others (including the red shirted Scoop Jardine) are for the most part complement pieces -- "glue guys", as their possession and shot percentages suggest (< 20 is more consistent with a "role" player on offense), rather than headliner/go-to guys.

On Offense

Rautins, Onuaku and Jackson all logged good minutes on the court, but were not the 1st or 2nd (or 3rd?) options on offense. Others drew the defense and took the pressure shots. A successful 2010 campaign will depend on how many are able to step into "Major Contributor" roles. If past is prelude, look for Rautins to get more green lights to hoist from beyond the arc. Will he be as successful if he draws additional defensive attention? From possessions and shots, Onuaku and Jackson may also take up more responsibility for the offense, evolving into "Significant Contributors" (about 20-23% of the possessions and shots), though the better bet is Jackson -- if he can avoid foul trouble.

On Defense
Andy Rautins67.510.518.
Arinze Onuaku64.816.64.317.85.31.0
Rick Jackson53.416.97.921.67.32.3
Kris Joseph29.

Significant Additions
The departure of Flynn, Devendorf and Harris will be filled (to some degree) with returning players. There are several newcomers who will help. The Orange's big get is 6-7 Wesley Johnson, a #3 transfer from Iowa. Coach Boeheim also has three true freshmen to compete for available spots. 6-3, 210 lb Brandon Triche may be advertised as an off guard, but Coach Boeheim intends to give him the ball early on in the fall. DaShonte Riley, a 6-11 220 lbs #5 out of Detriot, Michigan may be the more heralded of the entering class, but will most likely play behind the senior, Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson in the front court rotation. Prep player James Southerland, a 6-7, 190 lb #3 graduate of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts will add depth to the wing.

Explode If...
1. Wesley Johnson is as good as advertised & can hit an outside shot. In 2007 Coach Boeheim found himself constantly having to choose between playing Rautins and Harris at the #2/#3. Harris was the more aggressive and skilled defender, and a better slasher on offense. But Rautins was the better passer and could hit the outside shot, and did not embarrass himself in the 2-3 zone employed by the staff. Harris sat. If Johnson can combine the best of Rautins (hit the outside shot and pass well) with the best of Harris (athletic penetrator and good defender), the Orange should be a better team.
2. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche take charge. Flynn's value was certainly as a scorer, but the jet quick point guard was a good ball handler and floor general. Jardine will most likely get 1st shot at the point. If he can prove that he can run the team responsably, Triche can learn without pressure.
3. Rick Jackson takes a big developmental step. Jackson has shown promise through 2 seasons. With possessions and shots hanging at 18% (or so), he is poised to grow into a major/significant contributor offensive role this season. The Orange will benefit greatly if he can convert possessions into points efficiently.

Implode If...
1. Chemistry has been an issue the past three seasons. The historic parties are gone this season, but should a new schism develop on the squad, it could doom another season.
2. There will be games when someone will have to take that shot. Faced with that situation 3 games into his freshman season, Jonny Flynn stepped up and did not flinch. Since that game, Flynn and Harris were the leaders (for better or worse). Both are gone, but those games will happen this season, and someone will have to step up. Onuaku is not particularly vocal, he may not call for the ball when the time comes, but does Jardine (or one of the freshmen) have the credibility to rally the team? For this group of returning players, none has had to call for the ball or take that shot. Flynn, Harris and Devendorf were eager to take charge in those situations.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
Syracuse will face traditional foe Colgate early in November, and host Albany and Robert Morris in a regional for the 2K Sports Classic before heading down to New York City to face California in the semi-finals. Depending on the result, the Orange will face either North Carolina or Ohio State in the Championship/Consolation game. The Golden Bears are a middling PAC-10 team, but Ohio State or North Carolina should be a good test for the young Syracuse squad on a neutral (sort of...) court. Syracuse will also travel to Tampa, Florida to face Florida in the Big East/SEC Challenge December 10. Those three games, against other power conference teams, should give the Orange Nation a good idea of how the young squad stands going into the Big East regular season. The 2010 schedule reflects Coach Boeheim's more consistent effort to create a mix of OOC games, at home, neutral and away, and with high and mid-major opponents, rather than a steady diet of local cupcakes. A perfect season going into Christmas should suggest a Happy New Year for the Syracuse fan-base. Three or more losses on the other hand, suggest the team will have more work to do in what might become a very challenging Big East schedule.

Syracuse will jump right into the frying pan when they open the Big East regular season with a road game at Seton Hall. The Pirates have hopes as high as the Orange for 2010, a win will fuel someone's March Dreams, though a loss (while it might hurt the pride) would not be fatal to Syracuse's post season prospects. The Orange return to the Carrier Dome for a three game homestand, facing Pittsburgh, Memphis (in their last OOC game) and South Florida. Anything less than 3-0 would be cause for concern. The next road trip, their last three game stint in the Big East regular season, will see the Orange face (in order) Rutgers, West Virginia and Notre Dame. The Scarlet Knights would appear to be the best target of opportunity in the trio, but the humiliation from last season's beating should be good fodder for Rutgers' Coach Fred Hill. The RAC might not be as easy as prior seasons, especially if the Syracuse squad lacks confidence. A 1-2 record would seem "about right", with anything better (3-0? 2-1?) cause for optimism. If Syracuse goes into the last week of January with a Big East record of 3-3, their "path" to a 9-9 (or better) season will rely a good deal on opportunity wins against struggling conference members. 4-2 or better and the Cuse will definitely be in conversations about the post season. At 2-4 or worse, the Orange will have to prevail in four to six of their remaining home games -- a slate that includes Marquette, Georgetown (maybe not as easy as prior seasons), Providence, Connecticut, Louisville, Villanova & St. John's. I count three "probables" in that list...they will need to find another one or two (or so). Among their remaining road games, only their stop in Chicago (1/30)...and maybe Providence 2/23) look like good win opportunities. The balance -- against Cincinnati, Georgetown and Louisville will be tough even for an experienced team.

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